Identifying Potential Idols in Your Life

IdolsI’m guessing that you don’t have a little wooden figurine in your house to whom you pray and pour out daily drink offerings.  Yet, idolatry is one of the main issues in the Bible… so clearly we cannot just say “that doesn’t apply to me” and skip over all those passages.  Idolatry is alive and well today, it just looks different in our culture.

“What if I told you that every sin you are struggling with, every discouragement you are dealing with, even the lack of purpose you’re living with are because of idolatry?” writes Kyle Idleman in Gods at War.

“Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the one great sin that all others come from.  So if you start scratching at whatever struggle you’re dealing with, eventually you’ll find that underneath it is a false god. … There are a hundred million different symptoms, but the issue is always idolatry.”

It is difficult to see ourselves as idol worshippers.  The battle for supremacy is being fought in our hearts, and there are many things that war inside of us to take the place of God, the place of supremacy that only HE can occupy.  Potential idols are often good things that are morally neutral, until we elevate them, until we value them above their proper place in our lives.

How do you identify your idols or your potential idols?  Idleman proposes asking yourself these seven questions:

1. What disappoints you? When we feel overwhelmed by disappointment, it’s a good sign that something has become far more important to us than it should be.  Disproportionate disappointment reveals that we have placed intense hope and longing in something other than God.  Have you ever thought that our disappointments are God’s way of reminding us that there are idols in our life that must be dealt with?

2. What do you complain about the most?  Ask someone close to you what you complain about the most.  What we complain about reveals what really matters to us.  Are you whining about your finances, your sex life, how people don’t appreciate you, how your sports team is performing, etc.? Complaining shows what has power over us.  Whining is in many ways the opposite of worshipping God.

3. Where do you make financial sacrifices?  Take a look at your bank statement and your bills, and pretend you are examining a stranger’s finances to find out what is important to him.  Where your money goes shows what god is winning your heart.

4. What worries you?  Do you fear a particular loss of your spouse, your kids, or your job?  Do you fear ridicule, or being alone?  What are your bad dreams about?  Whatever it is that wakes you – or keeps you awake – has the potential to be an idol.

5. Where is your sanctuary?  To what or to whom do you run when it has been an awful day?  What place or person is your rescue and refuge?  Is it food, alcohol, exercise, television, novels, movies, porn, video games?  Where we run to when we are hurting says a lot about who we are.

6. What infuriates you?  Everyone has a hot button or two – something that we say makes us crazy.  Do you hate losing a game? Sitting in traffic?  Being disrespected?  Why does some stranger have so much power over your emotions? What’s the real issue here?  Maybe your quick temper reveals the oldest idol of them all – the god of me.

7. What are your dreams?  If nightmares are revealing, so are daydreams – the place where we choose for our imagination to go.  What dream has a grip on you?  Aspirations are fine, but the question is why you aspire to those things.

For me, these questions revealed quite a few potential idols that I might not have been willing to admit previously.  They are areas of my life – of my HEART – that I need to watch closely.

It turns out that I am prone to idol worship after all.  Thanks, Kyle Idleman, for helping me see that.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

Laws of Moses – No Other Gods

BJ First Commandment“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me.” – Deut. 5:6-7

We know this verse as the FIRST commandment.  It is the cornerstone of all the commandments.  The SECOND is like it.

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…” – Deut. 5:8-9

Got that?  We are to worship only the LORD, nothing else.  All our allegiance is to Him.

There is a whole collection of laws related to this command.  They could be grouped into the following categories:

A. Laws Against Idolatry and Paganism.

Don’t make other gods (out of any material you can imagine), don’t sacrifice to other gods, don’t swear by other gods, and don’t sacrifice your children to other gods.  Do not tolerate anyone among you who worships other gods and, in fact, you (nation of Israel) must completely destroy any city that worships other gods.  You also cannot worship the LORD wherever and however you choose – there is a specific way to worship Him, and a specific place (the tabernacle, and later the temple in Jerusalem).  (ref. Lev 19-20,26, Deut 12-14,17)

B. Laws Against False Spiritualists

Do not practice witchcraft, divination, sorcery, consult mediums or the dead, or cast spells – all such people must be put to death.  Do not listen to those who tell the future, interpret dreams, claim to be prophets, or lead you to serve another God.  Test the prophets and have no fear of them.  (ref. Deut 18, Lev 20)

C. Laws Regarding Blasphemy

Do not take the name of the LORD in vain, do not misuse the name of the LORD.   (ref. Deut 5, Lev 24) Did you recognize the third commandment?

D. Laws Requiring Dedications

In order to instill a proper sense of priorities and gratitude, God required that the first and best of everything be dedicated to the LORD.  The Law of Moses required dedication of the firstborn son, all firstborn male animals, and the first crops/grain/fruit.  The son can be redeemed and may return to the family, but the other dedications are used to support the work of the priests and Levites and to care for those with special needs. (ref. Ex 22,23,34, Deut 15)

E. Laws Requiring Tithing (ref. Deut 14,18)

F. Law of the Sabbath

The sabbath rest is noted twelve times in the giving of the laws and it is to serve as a day or remembrance and corporate worship and assembly.  It was the fourth commandment and symbolizes the day God rested after creation. (ref. Deut 5, Ex 31, Lev 19,23, Num 15)

Whew.  So what can we learn from this group of laws?

The LORD our God wants to be respected and honored – in our worship, our words, our labors and income, our children and all we own.  He does not tolerate the worship of anyone or anything else.

“You shall have no other gods.”

* This format of the Law of Moses is found in The Daily Bible (Chronological) by Harvest House Publishers, commentary by F. LaGard Smith.  I am so glad that someone grouped all the laws together and made sense of them for me!!

** Graphic from series, “What if God had texted Moses?” http://bjdhorehartford.blogspot.com/2011/05/if-god-had-texted-moses.html